EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 13, 2012

Editorial: Here’s another ‘anecdote’ officials will ignore

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Police say that Gregory Davis was taking the pain medicine he received free through a state health program and selling it illegally in Maine. At the Haverhill man’s arraignment Monday, a prosecutor said Davis drives to Maine once a week to sell 75 oxycodone pills.

He does this, police and prosecutors say, despite being disabled by rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to his medication, the state also pays for a home health aide to help care for Davis.

Yet Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says stories of welfare abuse like this and numerous others are mere “anecdotes” — unworthy of public concern and consternation.

Nonsense. Welfare fraud and abuse is a major problem in Massachusetts and, indeed, around the country. It wastes scarce taxpayer resources on the undeserving and undermines the effort to serve the truly needy. But as long as political leaders like Patrick dismiss such tales of abuse with a wave of their hands, these “anecdotes” will continue to frustrate and anger the taxpayers who must foot the bill for them.

Police said they arrested Davis after a man stopped by his apartment to buy an oxycodone pill. Police said that after buying one pill, the man drove away from the apartment and was stopped by officers. Police said Davis also drove off and a low-speed chase ensued, during which Davis was looking around his front seat. When he finally stopped his car, he swallowed something while drinking a cup of coffee, police said.

Police charged Davis, 52, with conspiring to sell Class B drugs with intent to distribute, conspiracy to violate the drug laws and carrying a dangerous weapon (a double-edged knife). In a search of his apartment, police said they found four containers with false bottoms, one of which contained a pill bottle and plastic bags stuffed inside to keep the bottle from rattling around.

”Detectives have reliable information from two separate sources that the defendant (Davis) was on his way up to Maine to sell 75 pills,” Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo said at Davis’ arraignment in Haverhill District Court. “He has a regular deal every Friday morning where he goes to Maine and sells 75 pills.”

Davis’ attorney Christopher Holland said he has a prescription for the medication.

”At the end of the day, he has 40 pills he’s lawfully able to possess,” Holland said in response to allegations that police found 41 oxycodone pills and 100 empty pill bottles inside Davis’ apartment.

Holland also said that Davis hid the oxycodone in false-bottomed containers because he had been robbed previously and had his medication stolen.

Davis’ guilt or innocence will be determined by a court. But the story of his alleged abuse of the state’s welfare system is not uncommon. Recently, a raid in Haverhill by local police, state troopers and federal agents netted 11 people wanted on drug and weapons charges. Reporter Mike LaBella found that all 11 received some kind of government payments for disabilities. These included payments for physical and mental ailments. Most of them were also unemployed.

Public welfare is meant to help decent, law-abiding citizens who have fallen on hard times. Few people object to providing this kind of safety net for society. But they are rightly incensed when they learn of people supplementing a life of crime with taxpayer support. Crime exacts a large enough toll from society already without subsidizing it.

To have our elected political leaders dismiss such outrages as mere “anecdotes” just adds insult to injury.